Changing the dynamics of retail shopping

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There was a time when shoppers used to travel length and breadth of the city’s main shopping arenas and spent plenty of their time in hand-picking the best furniture, home décor and accessories in a bid to give that perfect touch to their sweet home. However, mall revolution has swept the United Arab Emirates (UAE) expressively and has entirely changed the definition of home retailing business.
This popular west-end concept of business ‘home retail’ that once seemed a far-cry in the business corridors of Emirates is today a happening
reality. The overall industry size is over US$1 billion in this region and is fast flourishing with each passing day. It is estimated to grow by another 25 percent in 2016.
Gauging the real pulse of customers and overseeing the market potential are the prerequisite mantras of any successful home retail business in Middle East. Particularly in the UAE, retailers have been quite fast to spot and apply new trends, breaking the monotony of traditional shopping by developing novel offerings in the form of home retail.
One of the market giants in the sector of home retail is Landmark Group’s ‘Home Centre’, which has clearly changed the shopping experience of hundreds of thousands of shoppers in UAE and wider region. Started nearly two decades back, Home Centre has captured a vital share of the market and is still vigorously eyeing to increase its market stake with new openings. It has emerged as one of the most-sought-after shopping destinations for many, offering a wide range of upscale brands under one roof.
Home Centre, which was
already riding high on the success-wagon as a market leader, got further impetus after the appointment of Médéric Payne as its new Chief Executive Officer in 2014. A seasoned professional, with over 17 years of experience in home retail, Payne is passionate about the home improvement sector.
Emirates Business speaks to Payne to find out how he is planning to help the brand to charter new territories, energise its omni-channel strategy, reinforce retail technology and balance its contemporary design with the traditional sensibilities of the consumer.

Excerpts from the interview

Today where does Home Centre stand – in terms of number of stores, workforce, areas of operations, and annual turnover?
Retail has been one of the fastest growing industries and one of the leading drivers of economic growth in the Middle East in recent years. The rising population, urbanisation, expatriate wealth, strong household consumption and modern retail concepts, as well as a thriving tourism sector, continue to provide ideal conditions for growth. We launched our first store in 1995 and have seen a positive growth ever since. Home Centre’s success has come from providing customers exceptional value, great service and wide range of furniture and home furnishings. Currently, we have close to 90 stores, across 10 countries occupying 4 million square feet of space and a workforce of close to 6,000 employees. With 480 trucks and over 1500 delivery and assembly teams across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, Home Centre delivers at 1,800 homes every day.
This year, we also expanded our reach by increasing our activities on our e-commerce platform,, where our latest collections are available to our customers at just the click of a button.

Home Centre has operated in this region for 20 years. What has been the brand’s top insight about its consumer base? Are there any trends that unify behaviour in this market which has diverse demographics?
Customers in the region are increasingly becoming savvy. They spend time researching the options before making a purchase decision. In recent years, they have shown a preference for browsing online to see what the top trends are.
The sizes of urban homes are changing to more cozy formats and storage solutions need to be versatile to accommodate this change. The appetite for modular furniture and intelligent storage solutions is growing – so Home Centre is looking at these. Customers are also looking for brands to employ a more personalised approach, which reflects in the content of our annual catalogue and festive brochures. The tone is warmer, with a conscious effort to befriend the customer. Moreover, initiatives such as the ‘Room Makeover’ help us strengthen our connection with customers across the region.

What are your future plans? Any new openings or collaborations on cards in the coming months?
Over the next five years, Home Centre is investing over AED1 billion to strengthen its presence across the MENA and Asia region, fortify its existing supply chain and enhance its warehouse infrastructure. We intend to open over 50 new stores, as well as refit 40 of the existing stores. In order to adapt to changing customer needs, we will soon introduce new categories, a lifestyle range of storage solutions, and a diverse range of modular furniture which we believe would bring our customers a wider range of options and services.

Most experts are of the opinion that most of the local interior brands, in this region, are more inclined towards corporate clients rather retail customers. Do you agree with this?
Home Centre is an entirely customer focused brand and our collections are built taking into account the tastes of customers across the region. We are dedicated to creating a good mix of quality and value-for-money, which is always appealing to customers. From focusing on customers’ feedback and demands, we have noticed a growing trend in browsing and purchasing online, which we have tackled by offering all of our collections on our e-commerce platform. In addition, customers have also shown a preference for brands that employ a more personalised touch, which we reflect in our catalogues.

Do you see enough scope for the local furniture industry to become mature enough to compete with the global brands?
Competition is healthy and encourages a brand to continue developing and growing. It allows the market share to grow and brings about more room for development. There are many local furniture brands and designers emerging, and their innovative ideas may bring about a new and innovative direction into the market.

In this region, whom do you consider your main competitors and what Home Centre is doing to beat the mounting competition?
As a leading retail brand in the market, Home Centre prides itself in customer insight and we rely on their feedback to help us strategise for the future. We are aware of the growing competition in the market and believe that it acts as a driver towards higher heights with regards to customer satisfaction, quality, and performance levels, thus we look forward to it. Different players are strong in different aspects of décor and furniture retail, while at Home Centre we pride ourselves on creating a comprehensive collection.

How important is it to rope in celebrities to ensure a perfect branding for any brand?
Its very important. This is an important and exciting year for Home Centre and we are very pleased to welcome Nancy Ajram to our Home Centre family. Ajram shares Home Centre’s key attributes of being born in the MENA region. Her family-oriented image makes her perfectly complement for a brand like ours. A well-loved celebrity with international recognition, Ajram is a household name in the Arab world. She truly represents our spirit of celebration which we want to share with our customers through our anniversary year.

Can you throw some light on Home Centre’s energy saving and bio-degradable products?
As a brand, we are committed to offering the best to our clients and the community, and we endeavour in doing our part with respects to energy saving and bio-degradable products. All our products are ethically sourced with only the highest standards of quality and production kept in mind to maintain our promise.

What is Home Centre’s contribution to the group’s overall business across the region?
Home Centre remains to be an integral part of the Landmark Group and we consider it to be a competitive advantage in today’s market. Home Centre has grown from a single store opened in Sharjah in 1995 to the largest home retailer in the region due to our unique relationship with our customers and our unparalleled ability to cater to diverse tastes and cultures across various backgrounds. However, as a privately held entity, the Group doesn’t share details about individual brands’ contribution to sales.

UAE is home to nearly 200 nationalities. What is yourg strategy to live up to the expectations of so many varied tastes and expectations?
The UAE is a key market to Home Centre because of its overall complexity and maturity as a retail environment. Over the last 20 years, the retail landscape of this country, as well as the region, has evolved drastically. We pride ourselves at Home Centre for our ability to listen to our customers’ feedback and demand, which allows us to strategise and detect areas of growth and development. Home Centre collections have always catered to a range of diverse tastes and cultures, and have combined well modern and traditional designs to suit a wide range of clientele.

At present, furniture and interiors business is supported by real estate and construction boom. Do you expect this trend to continue in coming years?
The property market in region has seen a period of consolidation which gives customers a chance to upgrade their lifestyle. Operating in the mid-market segment — we offer great quality at various price points, to suit each customer’s needs. Keeping this in mind, we expect to maintain stability for our business. We are there for the long term and know that customers will reward us with their loyalty.

Apart from work, what keeps you busy while you are out of the office?
In my spare time, I dedicate my attention to my family. I also enjoy sports, travelling,
gardening and reading management books.

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(c) Guillaume Murat


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